When I’m not chauffeuring Emmy to school, Rick to work and my mom off to her elder (she thinks it’s work) daycare, I try to carve out time to meditate on discovering my million dollar idea. In New York, where there was a lotto machine on every corner and after I had devoted sufficient time to absorbing enough “if you dream it, you can do it” philosophy from The Secret I allowed myself two bucks each week in hopes of buying that winning ticket. My numbers never hit, at least not on the weeks I played them. Other ideas for financial success outside of just continuing with working at making a decent living involved: archival photo storage units, a line extension for our furniture collection in association with a tile company, and a t-shirt for peace, love and happiness I worked on with Emmy. So far none of these has panned out but now I think I might have hit on something and it’s all due to good old mom.
One of the more unpleasant aspects of Alzheimer care is the issue of hygiene. Emmy’s current favorite movie is, “The Notebook”. In the movie the heroine, Allie Calhoun, spends her golden years in a similar stage of the disease as my mom. The problem I had with the movie, the part that didn’t ring true was how beautifully put together Allie's appearance was and how much better she fared than my mom. As she struggled with her memory lose she always managed to keep up her appearance with her hair combed, her pearls in place and a daily set of fresh clothes. On the side of reality, my mom gets a beauty appointment once a week, which is about the only time I see her with her hair combed. Pearls are never a part of her wardrobe and most days when I come to pick her up I find she has spent the night sleeping on the living room couch in the same clothes she wore the day before and the day before that. She has a drawer full of nightgowns we have given her over the past few Christmases and birthdays all folded exactly like they were in the boxes they came in. The only nightgown she wears, when she remembers to wear one, is a ten year old rag with tiny rips and faded little flowers. We wash it when we can, although the cleanliness of her nightgown nowhere near tops the list of our hygiene concerns. Our biggest fears by far center around her underwear. When I go to pick her up and see she is wearing clothes from earlier in the week I know the underwear hasn’t been changed. My youngest sister has taken on the duty of bathing her on Tuesdays so we all know she has at least changed her undergarments once that week. It’s a thankless job, but Boni goes over early on Tuesdays and forces my mom to sit in the bathtub. She also manages to snatch her old clothes and get them down to the laundry replacing them with a clean set. Sometimes this is an easy task and on other times my mom can put up the kind of resistance only expected form someone being hog-tied and horse-whipped.
Growing older myself, I have been thankful for the insight of those clever inventors who have devoted their creative energies to find solutions for an older crowd. Making remote controls with numerals the size of ritz crackers, manufacturing shampoo containers with letters large enough to read without the aid of soap filmed glasses and Florence Henderson providing a website with tech support for seniors, have all added to the quality of life for people in their time of eminent deterioration. So this year, when I drew my mom’s name for our Christmas stocking exchange, I thought “what better gift to give her than a set of day-of-the-week panties”? The perfect idea, granny pants with Sunday through Saturday printed or embroidered in big BIG letters across the front so she could see them. I jumped in the car and started searching the mall making a beeline to Victoria’s Secret, the quintessential procurer of feminine intimate apparel. When I arrived my request for granny panties only produced a quizzical look on the sale associate’s face that in a non-verbal shutter told me Victoria’s Secret didn’t exactly cater to an octogenarian crowd. I pushed on to The Boston Store, trying to keep the business in the family, but no success. Then I went to Sears and JCPenney, no one had anything close to what I was looking for. I left the mall in frustration and headed back home secure in the knowledge I could find what I was looking for on the world-wide-web. Surely Ebay or Etsey would have a set of seven old lady drawers each in a different pastel color and marked with one of the days of the week. I typed in “Sunday-Monday undergarments” nothing, then “days-of-the-week panties”, and finally “days-of-the-week panties mature women”. The only things I ever found were a set of Princess panties for girls up to a size 6x and a set of naughty thongs where the type was so small only someone doing some serious eye to crotch action could read them. Neither of these seemed appropriate, so here is where the light bulb lit. No one seems to be tapping into the elderly market especially when it comes to clothing and hygiene and this issue swings both ways. Men need help below the belt as well. Someone needs to start making things like granny panties and grandpa boxers with days of the week printed in big letters across the front. Then for good measure reprint the days on the back band so when grandma says she’s wearing Wednesday you can give a quick yank on the back just short of a wedgie to verify she’s tell the truth. And this would only be the beginning of my elder wear line: blouses and shirts with Velcro or snap closures, slip-on shoes with built-in shoe horns (this one takes more than a verbal description), and pants that dissolve if you wear them more than five times in a row. These are only a few of the ideas I’ve been dreaming up. We could then broaden the scope beyond apparel. Someone needs to invent an odor detector alarm. They could be installed much like a smoke detector. When the body odor level rises above a predetermined level an alarm would go off or better yet a projected warning would begin to flash saying, “ TIME FOR A BATH”.
So if anyone else out there thinks this is worth a million dollars please feel free to add your comment and then back it up with some seed money. There must be someone out there who has the wisdom to see the brilliance of this idea or has at least a sense of humor.
For anyone unaware of Florence Henderson’s unique website helping seniors become computer literate, here’s the link: